Learn survival Cantonese and get oriented to the neighbourhood! Saturday School offers place-based Cantonese language learning in Vancouver Chinatown, a National Historic Site and living Cantonese community. The historic Mon Keang Chinese School will be our classroom, and the area's streets, shops and spaces will be our textbooks. Through guided field studies, we will hear stories about Chinatown history, community organizing, and historic and current relationships with the diverse cultural communities that share this space. Our final exam will be a grocery shopping expedition and shared meal.
Please note this is a Beginner's level course designed for Adult learners, and focused on conversational Cantonese (no reading or writing).
Saturday School originally ran in 2014 as a public program of Centre A and its exhibit, M’goi/Do Jeh: Sites, Rites and Gratitude, curated by Tyler Russell. The program was guest curated by participating artist Kathryn Gwun-Yeen Lennon 姚君妍 (a co-founder of Youth Collaborative for Chinatown), in collaboration with linguist and language instructor, Zoe Lam 林慧雯, and with numerous neighbourhood partners.
about mon keang chinese school
One of the first Chinese schools in the city, Mon Keang School opened in 1925 on the third floor of the Wong Benevolent Association building, one of Chinatown’s heritage-designated Chinese society buildings dating over one hundred years and located in the National Historic Site along Pender Street.
The use of the building by the Mon Keang School is an important part of the building’s heritage value. It illustrates the value overseas immigrants placed on the Chinese language and cultural education of their Canadian-born children or 土生 (Canto: tousang, Mando: tusheng, “born of the earth”). Chinese language was important to perpetuate Chinese culture, give Canadian-born children the skills required to function seamlessly in a predominantly Chinese-speaking environment, and maintain intergenerational relationships within family and community.
Mon Keang graduates include Canada’s first federally-appointed Chinese judge, Justice Randall Wong, and historian and author, Paul Yee, whose fonds at the City Archives include an exercise book and report card from his time as a student.
Mon Keang School closed its doors in 2011 due to declining enrolment and changing demographics that favour learning Mandarin over Cantonese.
ZOE LAM 林慧雯 is a PhD Candidate in Linguistics and Lead Researcher of the Hong Kong Canada Crosscurrents project at the University of British Columbia. Her work focuses on language perception by heritage Cantonese speakers in Canada.
Born and raised in Hong Kong, Zoe taught Cantonese to German expats before pursuing graduate studies. At UBC, she has been instructor of a weekly Cantonese class among fellow graduate student residents of St. John’s College. In 2015, she won First Place and People’s Choice Award in UBC’s Three-Minute Thesis Competition.
Zoe was Guest Instructor for the community project, M’goi/Do Jeh: Sites, Rites and Gratitude, at Centre A in Vancouver Chinatown in 2014. A social activist for linguistic diversity, Zoe has spoken on the topic on CBC Radio, Fairchild Radio, LS Times TV and OMNI News, among other media outlets.
FOR FURTHER INTEREST
With more speakers of Mandarin than Cantonese in Canada now, what future for the southern Chinese dialect is there?, South China Morning Post, Sept 10 2017
華埠承載美好回憶 教粵語回饋社區, Sing Tao Daily, Dec 5 2016
衝出街頭教粵語 姊妹花華埠創新風, Sing Tao Daily, Dec 5 2016
Sense Of Place - Guest Host Patrick Maliha - Doris Chow, Roundhouse Radio, Nov 3 2016
Vancouver Chinese school turns Chinatown into classroom, CBC News, Oct 18 2016
Vancouver Chinese school turns Chinatown into classroom (07:39), CBC Radio: On the Coast, Oct 17 2016
New spin on Chinese school focuses on Chinatown’s Cantonese conversations, MetroNews, 20 Sept 2016
Vancouver Chinatown real estate bustle puts hundreds of historic photos, documents at risk, Vancouver Sun, July 6 2016
Vancouver advocates aim to save Cantonese as language loses ground to Mandarin, MetroNews, July 11 2016
Sites, Rites and Gratitude: Carving out a new, inclusive Chinatown through art and language, Megaphone, May 9 2014